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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Challenge on ground for Delhi’s vaccine warriors: ‘Is it necessary?’

Delhi has been witnessing over 1,500 daily cases over the past six days as a result of which the city is now in the top 10 across the country with a high burden of disease.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
April 2, 2021 1:42:25 am
delhi rising coronavirus cases, delhi covid-19 vaccination, delhi coronavirus vaccine camps, delhi covid-19 cases, delhi news, indian expressBindu Kaushik, an anganwadi worker, at Savitri Devi’s home; (above) Bindu with a family in Bawana. (Express Photo by Sukrita Baruah)

Bindu Kaushik, an anganwadi worker, checks her copy of the voters’ list and knocks on the door of 71-year-old Savitri Devi’s home at Northwest Delhi’s Bawana. Kaushik is here to encourage the grandmother to get vaccinated against Covid.

It’s not easy, though.

Devi’s daughter-in-law, Sushma, has her doubts. “Is it necessary? I’ve seen on TV that some people who got the vaccine still got Covid afterwards,” she says.

Kaushik is patient. “The vaccine is to increase immunity against the illness. It will definitely help the body fight it away. The illness affects the elderly the most, which is why it was made available first for them. It’s very important that you not be scared,” she explains.

The anganwadi worker then lists the names of a few of Devi’s neighbours who got vaccinated. “Ask them, they’ll tell you there’s nothing to worry about,” she says. Devi appears convinced, Sushma not so much. “Think about it,” says Kaushik, and leaves after telling them which dispensary to go to, and advising them to reach early to avoid crowds.

Delhi has been witnessing over 1,500 daily cases over the past six days as a result of which the city is now in the top 10 across the country with a high burden of disease. And, the capital’s fight against Covid hinges on the skills of workers like Kaushik.

She is part of a large network of teams comprising anganwadi and ASHA workers, and school teachers, who have been working on the ground across districts since last month, going door-to-door to boost vaccination turnouts. Starting Thursday, their target group increased with the vaccine opening up for those above the age of 45 years as well. According to Delhi government data, close to 65 lakh people are eligible to get the vaccine at present.

Members of these teams have been drawing from various resources — information from the election office, personal networks, relationships in neighbourhoods and influence of local community leaders.

Around 5 km from Bawana, Ritu was making the rounds near her anganwadi centre in Pooth Khurd. She arrives at 70-year-old Anand Prakash’s home for her second visit. Prakash got his first shot last month and is keen to get the second dose, but his wife is unwilling to sign up. “There are some cases where people aren’t willing to talk and there’s not much we can do. We can’t drag people to the hospital,” says Ritu.

The workers note down the names, ages and contact details of all the people they visit. After a few days, they call up those who agreed to get the vaccine to check if they did, and note down the date on which they got their shot. Kaushik, for instance, has been given charge of an area with around 750 people.

Then, there are nodal officers in each area who try to find other ways to reach people. On Thursday morning, Bhupender Kumar, a teacher who is a nodal officer in the Narela sub-division, visited Santoshi Dham in Bajitpur to ask community leaders there to help. “We have been reaching out to religious and community leaders in several areas. They assured us they would speak about the vaccine and encourage people during their Sunday gatherings and spread the word on their WhatsApp groups. We said the leaders should also get vaccinated and show people photos of them getting it to build confidence,” he says.

These nodal officers also provide transport to vaccination centres for people who can’t travel easily. “We have our WhatsApp groups, so if there are 4-5 people willing to get the vaccine but are finding it difficult to get to the centres, especially the elderly, block-level officers get them to gather in one place and send us the address. We have been provided with two vehicles from the district office for this, and are making arrangements if any additional vehicles are required at any time,” says Sunil Kumar Bharadwaj, a school vice-principal and also a nodal officer in the Narela sub-division.

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